In Davidson County it was normal practice for the Sheriff’s Department to serve respondents for orders of protection by telephone and never actually hand them a physical copy of the petition. On June 6, 2016, a Davidson County Circuit Judge ruled this practice of “service” via telephone as insufficient.
Orders of Protection are civil actions that, if granted, can have significant legal ramification, including contempt of court or criminal charges. The significance of this order is that if an individual was only served by telephone, and never actually handed a physical paper, and then failed to appear at court, an Order of Protection was granted against them. The June 6th ruling holds that such an Order of Protection would be void because the court did not have personal jurisdiction against the individual who was only served by a telephone call.
This is obviously an issue of great concern, and is expressed in June 6th opinion. In a footnote the Judge goes on to say, “The Court is concerned that if this method of service of process is the current policy of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, the courts of the Twentieth Judicial District may be entering Orders of Protection against respondents in violation of their due process rights…. This Court is fearful that hundreds, if not thousands, of orders of protection and corresponding criminal convictions thereon could be void as the courts never obtained personal jurisdiction over the respondent.”
If you have had an Order of Protection entered against you and you were only served by telephone, then you have the right to have that Order set aside and request a hearing on the merits. Further, if you were subsequently charged with a violation of that Order of Protection, you have valid argument to have that criminal charge dismissed and expunged from your record. If you or someone you know have had such an experience, contact Freeman & Fuson at (615) 298-7272 for a consultation.
Michael Wrenn is an Associate Attorney at Freeman & Fuson.